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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Coming Of Bill - BOOK TWO - Chapter XIV - The Sixty-First Street Cyclone
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The Coming Of Bill - BOOK TWO - Chapter XIV - The Sixty-First Street Cyclone Post by :Martynas Category :Long Stories Author :P G Wodehouse Date :June 2011 Read :2130

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The Coming Of Bill - BOOK TWO - Chapter XIV - The Sixty-First Street Cyclone

BOOK TWO: Chapter XIV - The Sixty-First Street Cyclone

It was past seven o'clock when Kirk, bending over the wheel, with
Mamie at his side came in sight of the shack. The journey had been
checked just outside the city by a blow-out in one of the back tyres.
Kirk had spent the time, while the shirt-sleeved rescuer from the
garage toiled over the injured wheel, walking up and down with a cigar.
Neither he nor Mamie had shown much tendency towards conversation.
Mamie was habitually of a silent disposition, and Kirk's mind was too
full of his thoughts to admit of speech.

Ever since he had read Steve's telegram he had been in the grip of a
wild exhilaration. He had not stopped to ask himself what this mad
freak of Steve's could possibly lead to in the end--he was satisfied to
feel that its immediate result would be that for a brief while, at any
rate, he would have his son to himself, away from all the chilling
surroundings which had curbed him and frozen his natural feelings in
the past.

He tried to keep his mind from dwelling upon Ruth. He had thought too
much of her of late for his comfort. Since they had parted that day of
the thunder-storm the thought that he had lost her had stabbed him
incessantly. He had tried to tell himself that it was the best thing
they could do, to separate, since it was so plain that their love had
died; but he could not cheat himself into believing it.

It might be true in her case--it must be, or why had she let him go
that afternoon?--but, for himself, the separation had taught him that
he loved her as much as ever, more than ever. Absence had purified him
of that dull anger which had been his so short a while before. He
looked back and marvelled that he could ever have imagined for a moment
that he had ceased to love her.

Now, as he drove along the empty country roads, he forced his mind to
dwell, as far as he could, only upon his son. There was a mist before
his eyes as he thought of him. What a bully lad he had been! What fun
they had had in the old days! But that brought his mind back to Ruth,
and he turned his mind resolutely to the future again.

He chuckled silently as he thought of Steve. Of all the mad things to
do! What had made him think of it? How had such a wild scheme ever
entered his head? This, he supposed, was what Steve called punching
instead of sparring. But he had never given him credit for the
imagination that could conceive a punch of this magnitude.

And how had he carried it out? He could hardly have broken into the
house. Yet that seemed the only way in which it could have been done.

From Steve his thoughts returned to William Bannister. He smiled again.
What a time they would have--while it lasted! The worst of it was, it
could not last long. To-morrow, he supposed, he would have to take the
child back to his home. He could not be a party to this kidnapping raid
for any length of time. This must be looked on as a brief holiday, not
as a permanent relief.

That was the only flaw in his happiness as he stopped the car at the
door of the shack, for by now he had succeeded at last in thrusting the
image of Ruth from his mind.

There was a light in the ground-floor window. He raised his head and


The door opened.

"Hello, Kirk. That you? Come along in. You're just in time for the main

He caught sight of Mamie standing beside Kirk.

"Who's that?" he cried. For a moment he thought it was Ruth, and his
honest heart leaped at the thought that his scheme had worked already
and brought Kirk and her together again.

"It's me, Steve," said Mamie in her small voice. And Steve, as he heard
it, was seized with the first real qualm he had had since he had
embarked upon his great adventure.

As Kirk had endeavoured temporarily to forget Ruth, so had he tried not
to think of Mamie. It was the only thing he was ashamed of in the whole
affair, the shock he must have given her.

"Hello, Mamie," he said sheepishly, and paused. Words did not come
readily to him.

Mamie entered the house without speaking. It seemed to Steve that
invective would have been better than this ominous silence. He looked
ruefully at her retreating back and turned to greet Kirk.

"You're mighty late," he said.

"I only got your telegram toward the end of the afternoon. I had been
away all day. I came here as fast as I could hit it up directly I read
it. We had a blow-out, and that delayed us."

Steve ventured a question.

"Say, Kirk, why 'us,' while we're talking of it? How does Mamie come to
be here?"

"She insisted on coming. It seems that everybody in the house was away
to-day, so she tells me, so she came round to me with your note."

"I guess this has put me in pretty bad with Mamie," observed Steve
regretfully. "Has she been knocking me on the trip?"

"Not a word."

Steve brightened, but became subdued again next moment.

"I guess she's just saving it," he said resignedly.

"Steve, what made you do it?"

"Oh, I reckoned you could do with having the kid to yourself for a
spell," said Steve awkwardly.

"You're all right, Steve. But how did you manage it? I shouldn't have
thought it possible."

"Oh, it wasn't so hard, that part. I just hid in the house, and--but
say, let's forget it; it makes me feel kind of mean, somehow. It seems
to me I may have lost Mamie her job. It's mighty hard to do the right
thing by every one in this world, ain't it? Come along in and see the
kid. He's great. Are you feeling ready for supper? Him and me was just
going to start."

It occurred to Kirk for the first time that he was hungry.

"Have you got anything to eat, Steve?"

Steve brightened again.

"Have we?" he said. "We've got everything there is in Connecticut! Why,
say, we're celebrating. This is our big day. Know what's happened?

He stopped short, as if somebody had choked him. They had gone into the
sitting-room while he was speaking. The table was laid for supper. A
chafing-dish stood at one end, and the remainder of the available space
was filled with a collection of foods, from cold chicken to candy,
which did credit to Steve's imagination.

But it was not the sight of these that checked his flow of speech. It
was the look on Mamie's face as he caught sight of it in the lamplight.
The White Hope was sitting at the table in the attitude of one who has
heard the gong and is anxious to begin; while Mamie, bending over him,
raised her head as the two men entered and fixed Steve with a baleful

"What have you been doing to the poor mite?" she demanded fiercely, "to
get his face scratched this way?"

There was no doubt about the scratch. It was a long, angry red line
running from temple to chin. The White Hope, becoming conscious of the
fact that the attention of the public was upon him, and diagnosing the
cause, volunteered an explanation.

"Bad boy," he said, and looked meaningly again at the candy.

"What does he mean by 'bad boy'?"

"Just what he says, Mamie, honest. Gee! you don't think _I done
it, do you?"

"Have you been letting the precious lamb _fight_?" cried Mamie,
her eyes two circles of blue indignation.

Steve's enthusiasm overcame his sense of guilt. He uttered a whoop.

"_Letting him! Gee! Listen to her! Why, say, that kid don't have
to be let! He's a scrapper from Swatville-on-the-Bingle. Honest! That's
what all this food is about. We're celebrating. This is a little supper
given in his honour by a few of his admirers and backers, meaning me.
Why, say, Kirk, that kid of yours is just the greatest thing that ever
happened. Get that chafing-dish going and I'll tell you all about it."

"How did he come by that scratch?" said Mamie, coldly sticking to her

"I'll tell you quick enough. But let's start in on the eats first. You
wouldn't keep a coming champ waiting for his grub, would you? Look how
he's lamping that candy."

"Were you going to let the poor mite stuff himself with candy, Steve

"Sure. Whatever he says goes. He owns the joint after this afternoon."

Mamie swiftly removed the unwholesome delicacy.

"The idea!"

Kirk was busying himself with the chafing-dish.

"What have you got in here, Steve?"

"Lobster, colonel. I had to do thirty miles to get it, too."

Mamie looked at him fixedly.

"Were you going to feed lobster to this child?" she asked with ominous
calm. "Were you intending to put him to bed full of broiled lobster and

"Nix on the rough stuff, Mamie," pleaded the embarrassed pugilist. "How
was I to know what kids feed on? And maybe he would have passed up the
lobster at that and stuck to the sardines."


"Ain't kids allowed sardines?" said Steve anxiously. "The guy at the
store told me they were wholesome and nourishing. It looked to me as if
that ought to hit young Fitzsimmons about right. What's the matter with

"A little bread-and-milk is all that he ever has before he goes to

Steve detected a flaw in this and hastened to make his point.

"Sure," he said, "but he don't win the bantam-weight champeenship of
Connecticut every night."

"Is that what he's done to-day, Steve?" asked Kirk.

"It certainly is. Ain't I telling you?"

"That's the trouble. You're not. You and Mamie seem to be having a
discussion about the nourishing properties of sardines and lobster.
What has been happening this afternoon?"

"Bad boy," remarked William Bannister with his mouth full.

"That's right," said Steve. "That's it in a nutshell. Say, it was this
way. It seemed to me that, having no kid of his own age to play around
with, his nibs was apt to get lonesome, so I asked about and found that
there was a guy of the name of Whiting living near here who had a kid
of the same age or thereabouts. Maybe you remember him? He used to
fight at the feather-weight limit some time back. Called himself Young
O'Brien. He was a pretty good scrapper in his time, and now he's up
here looking after some gent's prize dogs.

"Well, I goes to him and borrows his kid. He's a scrappy sort of kid at
that and weighs ten pounds more than his nibs; but I reckoned he'd have
to do, and I thought I could stay around and part 'em if they got to
mixing it."

Mamie uttered an indignant exclamation, but Kirk's eyes were gleaming

"Well?" he said.

Steve swallowed lobster and resumed.

"Well, you know how it is. You meet a guy who's been in the same line
of business as yourself and you find you've got a heap to talk about.
I'd never happened across the gink Whiting, but I knew of him, and, of
course, he'd heard of me, and we got to discussing things. I seen him
lose on a foul to Tommy King in the eighteenth round out in Los
Angeles, and that kept us busy talking, him having it that he hadn't
gone within a mile of fouling Tommy and me saying I'd been in a
ring-seat and had the goods on him same as if I'd taken a snap-shot.
Well, we was both getting pretty hot under the collar about it when
suddenly there's the blazes of a noise behind us, and there's the two
kids scrapping all over the lot. The Whiting kid had started it, mind
you, and him ten pounds heavier than Bill, and tough, too."

The White Hope confirmed this.

"Bad boy," he remarked, and with a deep breath resumed excavating work
on a grapefruit.

"Well, I was just making a jump to separate them when this Whiting gook
says, 'Betcha a dollar my kid wins!' and before I knew what I was doing
I'd taken him. It wasn't that that stopped me, though. It was his
saying that his kid took after his dad and could eat up anything of his
own age in America. Well, darn it, could I take that from a slob of a
mixed-ale scrapper when it was handed out at the finest kid that ever
came from New York?"

"Of course not," said Kirk indignantly, and even Mamie forbore to
criticize. She bent over the White Hope and gave his grapefruit-stained
cheek a kiss.

"Well, I _should say not!" cried Steve. "I just hollered to his
nibs, 'Soak it to him, kid! for the honour of No. 99'; and, believe me,
the young bear-cat sort of gathered himself together, winked at me, and
began to hammer the stuffing out of the scrappy kid. Say, there wasn't
no sterilized stuff about his work. You were a regular germ, all right,
weren't you squire?"

"Germ," agreed the White Hope. He spoke drowsily.

"Gee!" Steve resumed his saga in a whirl of enthusiasm. "Gee! if
they're right to start with, if they're born right, if they've got the
grit in them, you can't sterilize it out of 'em if you use up half the
germ-killer in the country. From the way that kid acted you'd have
thought he'd been spending the last year in a training-camp. The other
kid rolled him over, but he come up again as if that was just the sort
of stuff he liked, and pretty soon I see that he's uncovered a yellow
streak in the Whiting kid as big as a barn door. You were on it,
weren't you, colonel?"

But the White Hope had no remarks to offer this time. His head had
fallen forward and was resting peacefully in his grapefruit.

"He's asleep," said Mamie.

She picked him up gently and carried him out.

"He's a champeen at that too," said Steve. "I had to pull him out of
the hay this morning. Well, I guess he's earned it. He's had a busy

"What happened then, Steve?"

"Why, after that there wasn't a thing to it. Whiting, poor simp,
couldn't see it. 'Betcha ten dollars my kid wins,' he hollers. 'He's
got him going.' 'Take you,' I shouts; and at that moment the scrappy
kid sees it's all over, so he does the old business of fouling, same as
his pop done when he fought Tommy King. It's in the blood, I guess. He
takes and scratches poor Bill on the cheek."

"That was enough for me. I jumps in. 'All over,' I says. 'My kid wins
on a foul.' 'Foul nothing,' says Whiting. 'It was an accident, and you
lose because you jumped into the fight, same as Connie McVey did when
Corbett fought Sharkey. Think you can get away with it, pulling that
old-time stuff?' I didn't trouble to argue with him. 'Oh,' I says, 'is
that it? Say, just take a slant at your man. If you don't stop him
quick he'll be in Texas.'

"For the scrappy kid was beating it while the going was good and was
half a mile away, running hard. Well, that was enough even for the
Whiting guy. 'I guess we'll call it a draw,' he says, 'and all bets
off.' I just looks at him and says, quite civil and polite: 'You darned
half-baked slob of a rough-house scrapper,' I says, 'it ain't a draw or
anything like it. My kid wins, and I'll trouble you now to proceed to
cash in with the dough, or else I'm liable to start something.' So he
paid up, and I took the White Hope indoors and give him a wash and
brush-up, and we cranks up the bubble and hikes off to the town and
spends the money on getting food for the celebration supper. And what's
over I slips into the kid's pocket and says: 'That's your first
winner's end, kid, and you've earned it.'"

Steve paused and filled his glass.

"I'm on the waggon as a general thing nowadays," he said; "but I reckon
this an occasion. Right here is where we drink his health."

And, overcome by his emotion, he burst into discordant song.

"Fo-or he's a jolly good fellow," bellowed Steve. "For he's a jolly
good fellow. For he's--"

There was a sound of quick footsteps outside, and Mamie entered the
room like a small whirlwind.

"Be quiet!" she cried. "Do you want to wake him?"

"Wake him?" said Steve. "You can't wake that kid with dynamite."

He raised his glass.

"Ladeez'n gentlemen, the boy wonder! Here's to him! The bantam-weight
champeen of Connecticut. The Sixty-First Street Cyclone! The kid they
couldn't sterilize! The White Hope!"

"The White Hope!" echoed Kirk.

"Fo-or he's a jolly good fellow--" sang Steve.

"Be quiet!" said Mrs. Porter from the doorway, and Steve, wheeling
round, caught her eye and collapsed like a pricked balloon.

Content of BOOK TWO: Chapter XIV - The Sixty-First Street Cyclone (P G Wodehouse's novel: The Coming of Bill)

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